Jerry Summers: Tale of 2 Church Towers

The preservation of historic sites in Chattanooga often takes divergent paths.

The first Methodist Church was established locally in 1865 on the current site of the Hamilton County Courthouse. It would move twice before building a new facility at the corner of McCallie and Georgia Avenues and would become known as “The Stone Church” because its exterior was made of stone from a local quarry which is now the site of the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club.

In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South and the Methodist Protest Church (North) united nationally.

Locally, two churches, First Methodist and Centennial Methodist have remained separate congregations, despite being only a block away from each other.

In 1966 the two churches agreed to merge as the First Centenary and in 1973 the current sanctuary was opened on the Houston Street side of the McCallie Avenue block.

The stone church and annex were demolished in 1976 except for the steeple which still stands today as a silent sentinel and reminder of the historic past of both churches (thanks to historian Harmon Jolly for his article of July 27, 2003).

In another part of town, the Highland Park Baptist Church, after some relocation, was located at Union and South Orchard Knob Avenues.

In the spring of 1922, a new red brick church building came into being with the unique characteristics of having four large clock faces on the top of its steeple facing in each direction.

Dr. Lee Robertson came to Highland Park Baptist Church in 1942 from Fairfield, Alabama.

In 1946 the church established the Tennessee Temple (university) which over the years graduated thousands of students before the school merged with Piedmont International University, a private Christain college in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

In 2014-2015 the university sold most of its Highland Park (HP) campus buildings to Redemption to the Nations, the parent organization of Redemption Point Church and this ministry continues into 2022 in the thriving HP community.

On June 10, 2022, the vacant HP building burned down under suspicion of an arson attack that is still being investigated by the Chattanooga Fire and Police Department.

The auditorium adjacent to the brick bell tower was destroyed.

Initially, the Bishop of Redemption to the Nations Church said on June 12, 2022 that “the church contractors will do what they can to save the steeple and stained glass windows!”

However, after hiring a church design company out of town, the decision was made that the cost of preserving the historic site was going to be too expensive and in a 3 minute 15 second video clip he claimed that “it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars”. dollars” to save the tower, then put a positive spin on the congregation to justify destroying another historic relic of Chattanooga’s past.

(What the future may hold for the site is unknown, but the discovery of a 1909 cornerstone, time capsule and its contents could be a poor consolation prize for the planned box-shaped building that will replace one of Dr. Lee Robertson’s historical treasures?)

PS They were able to save and preserve the dangerous building’s four expensive clocks!

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Jerry B. Hatch